A Burglar’s Guide to the City
Presented by the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts Interdisciplinary Initiatives program – Geoff Manaugh, “A Burglar’s Guide to the City” recorded live on April 18, 2017, at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Sponsored by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston and the FACE Foundation, New York. This lecture was part of the “Cargo and Carriers: Sites, Zones, Borders” program organized by Abinadi Meza for University of Houston uh.edu/cotaand DUST (Desert Unit for Speculative Territories) desertunit.org
– Geoff Manaugh, A Burglar’s Guide to the City –
Studying architecture the way a burglar would, Geoff Manaugh takes readers through walls, down elevator shafts, into panic rooms, and out across the rooftops of an unsuspecting city. At the core of A Burglar’s Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it. At the core of A Burglar’s Guide to the City is an unexpected and thrilling insight: how any building transforms when seen through the eyes of someone hoping to break into it. Encompassing nearly 2,000 years of heists and break-ins, the book draws on the expertise of reformed bank robbers, FBI Special Agents, private security consultants, the L.A.P.D. Air Support Division, and architects past and present. Whether picking locks or climbing the walls of high-rise apartments, finding gaps in a museum’s surveillance routine or discussing home invasions in ancient Rome, A Burglar’s Guide to the City ensures readers will never enter a bank again without imagining how to loot the vault or walk down the street without planning the perfect getaway.
Geoff Manaugh is the acclaimed author of BLDGBLOG, one of the most acclaimed architecture & design sites on the web. He is also the author two books—the New York Times-bestselling A Burglar’s Guide to the City and The BLDGBLOG Book—as well as editor of a third, Landscape Futures: Instruments, Devices and Architectural Inventions. A Burglar’s Guide to the City is currently being adapted for television by CBS Studios. Previously he was senior editor of Dwell, contributing editor at Wired UK, and Director of Studio-X NYC, an urban think tank at Columbia University. Since 2015 he has been a Discovery Fellow at the University of Southern California Libraries in Los Angeles.
Presented by the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts Interdisciplinary Initiatives program – Jacob Kirkegaard, lecture, workshop and concert recorded live on April 6, 2017, at SITE Gallery Houston. Co-sponsored by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston, the FACE Foundation, New York, and Washington Avenue Arts District, Houston. This program was part of the “Cargo and Carriers: Sites, Zones, Borders” program organized by Abinadi Meza for University of Houston uh.edu/cota and DUST (Desert Unit for Speculative Territories) desertunit.org.
This video documents Jacob Kirkegaard performing Labyrinthitis, a concert made from recordings of “otoacoustic emissions,” mysterious and complex tonal clusters produced by the ears themselves. Using a specialized microphone inserted directly in the ears, Kirkegaard was able to capture these otherwise unheard tones. Labyrinthitis works with otoacoustic emissions generated by the artist’s ears to produce otoacoustic emissions in the ears of listeners. The site is a complex of former rice silos in Houston – large multistory concrete chambers. Kirkegaard is playing a multichannel piece, with tones installed across multiple silos.
Jacob Kirkegaard works in carefully selected environments; his works reveal unheard sonic phenomena and present listening as a means of experiencing the world. Kirkegaard has recorded sonic events such as subterranean geyser vibrations, empty rooms in Chernobyl, and Arctic calving glaciers. Kirkegaard’s work has presented at MoMA, New York; Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Copenhagen; Menil Collection, Houston; and the Aichi Trienalle, Nagoya, among other venues. His sound works are released by TOUCH (UK), Important Records (USA), VON Archives (FR), mATTER (JAP) and other labels. For more information visit fonik.dk
Storytelling in the Anthropocene 3/9/17 University of Houston
Presented by the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts Interdisciplinary Initiatives program – Jeff VanderMeer, “Storytelling in the Anthropocene” recorded live on Mar 9, 2017, at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Sponsored by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston and the FACE Foundation, New York. This lecture was part of the “Cargo and Carriers: Sites, Zones, Borders” program organized by Abinadi Meza for University of Houston [http:uh.edu/cota] and DUST (Desert Unit for Speculative Territories) [http:desertunit.org].
-Jeff VanderMeer, Storytelling in the Anthropocene-
Acclaimed author Jeff VanderMeer will present a seminar and writing workshop on cities, navigation and memory, and then a public lecture “Area X: Storytelling in the Anthropocene” followed by a Q&A session. Based on VanderMeer’s New York Times-bestselling “Southern Reach” trilogy, which blends speculative fiction, eco-fiction, metafiction and horror, these presentations examine what is meant by ecological, object-oriented and post-human thinking, as well as the relationships between artistic creation and space/place/site.
Jeff VanderMeer’s latest novel is Borne, out from MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux, which Colson Whitehead called “a thorough marvel.” He is also known for his critically acclaimed NYT-bestselling Southern Reach trilogy from FSG, which won the Shirley Jackson Award and Nebula Award. The trilogy also prompted the New Yorker to call the author “the weird Thoreau” and has been acquired by publishers in 35 other countries, with Paramount Pictures releasing a movie in 2018. VanderMeer’s nonfiction has appeared in the New York Times, the Guardian, the Atlantic.com, Vulture, Esquire.com, and the Los Angeles Times. He has taught at the Yale Writers’ Conference, lectured at MIT, Brown University, and the Library of Congress.
From Planetary [Human] Timescapes to the Cosmopolitical Gesture 3/21/17 University of Houston
Presented by the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts Interdisciplinary Initiatives program – Ed Keller, “From Planetary [Human] Timescapes to the Cosmopolitical Gesture” recorded live on Mar 21, 2017, at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Sponsored by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston and the FACE Foundation, New York. This lecture was part of the “Cargo and Carriers: Sites, Zones, Borders” program organized by Abinadi Meza for University of Houston [http:uh.edu/cota] and DUST (Desert Unit for Speculative Territories) [http:desertunit.org].
– Ed Keller, From Planetary [Human] Timescapes to the Cosmopolitical Gesture –
This seminar examines a range of film, literature, and art works that generate specific structures of consciousness or communicative systems leading to increased agency and awareness. The appearance of such works, or devices, or “feedback mechanisms” may offer some kind of hope for human- and nonhuman- coordination of life across multiple timescales, resulting in a much-needed post/transhuman ethics. Drawing from a wide range of materials including T.S. Eliot’s “Quartets,” writings by Robin Hanson, Giorgio Agamben, the Shannon-Weaver and Sapir-Whorf systems models, as well as Dziga Vertov’s film Man With a Movie Camera, Andrei Tarkovsky’s film Mirror, and the recent sci-fi film Arrival, Keller connects concepts and materials across domains to underscore that which is both human and nonhuman simultaneously – that which lives in both human timescales, and geological and cosmological timescales, to point towards a different cognition, sentience, sapience, and thalience.
Ed Keller is a designer, professor, writer, musician and multimedia artist. He is an Associate Professor and the Director of the Center for Transformative Media at Parsons/The New School for Design. Prior to joining Parsons, he taught at Columbia University’s GSAPP [1998-2010] and SCIArc [2004-09]. With Carla Leitao he co-founded AUM Studio, an architecture and new media firm that has produced residential projects, competitions, and new media installations in Europe and the US. His work and writing has appeared widely, in venues including Punctum, Praxis, ANY, AD, Arquine, Leonardo Electronic Almanac, Architecture, Precis, Wired, Metropolis, Assemblage, Ottagono, and Progressive Architecture. He lectures on architecture, film, technology and ecology internationally.
Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability 2/14/17 University of Houston
Presented by the Kathrine G. McGovern College of the Arts Interdisciplinary Initiatives program – Eyal Weizman “Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability” recorded live on Feb 14, 2017, at the University of Houston in Houston, Texas. Sponsored by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston and the FACE Foundation, New York. This lecture was part of the “Cargo and Carriers: Sites, Zones, Borders” program organized by Abinadi Meza for University of Houston [http:uh.edu/cota] and DUST (Desert Unit for Speculative Territories) [http:desertunit.org].
– Eyal Weizman, Forensic Architecture: Violence at the Threshold of Detectability –
In recent years, Forensic Architecture began using novel research methods to undertake a series of investigations into human rights abuses. Today, the group provides crucial evidence for international courts and works with a wide range of activist groups, NGOs, Amnesty International, and the UN. Beyond shedding new light on human rights violations and state crimes across the globe, Forensic Architecture has also created a new form of investigative practice that bears its name. The group uses architecture as an optical device to investigate armed conflicts and environmental destruction, as well as to cross-reference a variety of evidence sources, such as new media, remote sensing, material analysis, witness testimony, and crowd sourcing. The practice calls for a transformative politics in which architecture as a field of knowledge and a mode of interpretation exposes and confronts ever-new forms of state violence and secrecy.
Eyal Weizman is Professor of Spatial and Visual Cultures at Goldsmiths College, University of London. He is a Global Scholar at Princeton University and a member of the board of directors of the Center for Investigative Journalism. His books include Mengele’s Skull (with Thomas Keenan), The Least of All Possible Evils, and Hollow Land.
On The Stack To Come
What has planetary-scale computation done to our geopolitical realities? It takes different forms at different scales—from energy and mineral sourcing and subterranean cloud infrastructure to urban software and massive universal addressing systems; from interfaces drawn by the augmentation of the hand and eye to users identified by self—quantification and the arrival of legions of sensors, algorithms, and robots. Together, how do these distort and deform modern political geographies and produce new territories in their own image? In his book The Stack: On Software and Sovereignty, Benjamin Bratton proposes that these different genres of computation— smart grids, cloud platforms, mobile apps, smart cities, the Internet of Things, automation—can be seen not as so many species evolving on their own, but as forming a coherent whole: an accidental mega-structure called The Stack that is both a computational apparatus and a new governing architecture. The Stack is an interdisciplinary design brief for a new geopolitics that works with and for planetary-scale computation. Interweaving the continental, urban, and perceptual scales, it shows how we can better build, dwell within, communicate with, and govern our worlds. In this talk, Bratton will reflect on The Stack-we-have and what the design of The- Stack-to-Come may entail.
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 17th 2016 (7-9pm)
More than hidden pipes and wires, infrastructure space is something like an operating system for shaping the city. Far from hidden but seen perhaps with half-closed eyes, it is a surrounding matrix of repeatable rules, relationships, and spatial products — the skyscrapers, malls, resorts, franchises, parking lots, airports, ports, golf courses, or free zones that press into view and often look the same whether they are in Texas or Taiwan. Coding the system are bankers, developers, and consultants for whom space may only be a byproduct of laws, econometrics, informatics, logistics, or global standards. Yet this matrix space is shaping of some of the most radical changes to the globalizing world. It has become a de facto medium of polity and a secret weapon of stealthy politics. But this space is also an underexploited tool of global change that brings another relevance to art and design. And it prompts an adventure in thinking that considers nothing less than an alternative approach to form-making and activism, an alternative with special aesthetic pleasures and political capacities.
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 19th 2016 (7-9pm)
Paranoia And Ecology: Smithson’s Non-Site
The need to theorize abstraction in relation to the site invites a return to Robert Smithson’s “non- site.” For Smithson, non-sites frame sites, abstracting them into cultural and semiotic spaces, most often the space of the museum. Yet with his “Mirror Displacements” and other works, Smithson showed that the site also divides from itself in place, without the intervention of the museum or the frame. Bypassing physical displacement and even the consciousness of the viewer, Smithson’s mirrors show that the site relates to itself by way of a nonhuman representational order. Through techniques such as these, the site/non-site dialectic raises the question whether abstraction is human at all, or rather a more universal phenomenon. In dialogue with recent theories of relation, objecthood, and the closure of systems, Smithson’s work helps us to think the role of abstraction and semiosis as more than human projections. In this reading, no site is deserted. All sites incorporate non-sites even before artists involve them in aesthetic processes. My contribution brings this theory of the non-site into conversation with the little-studied juncture of cultural paranoia and ecological thought. One telegraphic way to encapsulate this genealogy is through a strange convergence of definitions of paranoia and ecology during the 1970s, when the scientist Barry Commoner made “everything is connected to everything else” the first principle of ecology and Thomas Pynchon made “everything is connected” the mantra of paranoid subjectivity. Even ecology as a science has often been concerned with the question whether or not discrete, contingent events are tied together by an overarching system that has some ontological consistency of its own. More broadly, paranoia asks whether chance events are totalized by a single agency that gives them meaning from behind the scenes. Connecting this tradition to Smithson through analysis with his writing in essays such as “The Spiral Jetty,” my emphasis falls on the failings of pervasive connectedness as a model of ecological thought. In Donna Haraway’s words, “nothing is connected to everything; everything is connected to something.” Site specific art and ecological art can introduce closure and non-relation into the site without ignoring lessons of paranoid connectedness and ecological complexity. Re-reading Smithson’s work in the Anthropocene contributes to an ecological aesthetics that can embrace nonhuman semiosis while rejecting holism and related concepts of immanence that have often guided site-specific art.
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 18th 2016 (10am-noon)
The Day The Sun Rose Twice
This artist talk presents Mountain War Time, a recent body of work addressing the secrecy surrounding the detonation of the first atomic bomb at the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico. The piece approaches the desert as a space of exposure and revelation and focuses on two moments of slippage in the atomic bomb’s clandestine development.
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 18th 2016 (3-5pm)
Deserted Sites, Concerted Sights
While Land Art is typically understood through the example of monumental constructions in the landscape of the southwest United States, significant examples abound of artists who have created site-specific work to highlight deserted sites within highly populated urban centers. This presentation provides a provisional theorization of what is shared among the “deserted sites” both urban and rural that have featured in select Land Art practices since the 1960s, and connects historic examples to present-day projects sited in overlooked or abandoned corners of cities. Following the lead of Jane McFadden’s 2012 essay, “Not Sculpture: Along the Way to Land Art,” the presentation takes as its departure Ben Vautier’s practice, circa 1961, of designating with signage and photography certain terrains vagues in the crumbling cityscape as deserving of aesthetic attention. From there, it charts the concerted sights of select artists who continue to reframe and make newly visible deserted sites within the contemporary environment.
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 17th 2016 (2-4pm)
Fragments in Tall Grass
Fragments in Tall Grass considers Marsh Ruins (1981) a work by sculptor Beverly Buchanan. Made of tabby, and hand-dyed a mellow brown, Marsh Ruins was one of the most public and collaborative works that Buchanan produced during her eight years living in Macon, Georgia (from 1977-1985). Placed in the Marshes of Glynn–a mythical place for many Georgians– where the salt-water tide could cover and uncover its three lumpen forms daily, Marsh Ruins performs the ongoing condition of ruination that informed its making. This paper understands topic of «Deserting the Site» from an oblique angle, asking how such concepts might intersect with racialized geographies and sculptural forms, and how a dislocation away from the material conditions of the desert might enrich the notion of «desertion.» A marsh is not a desert, this we know, but the mythico-logics of both places may be more similar than we might otherwise care to admit. Water, water, everywhere…
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 17th 2016 (3-5pm)
Detailing how early electronic music’s use of drone frequencies and repetitive speech modules evokes the mechanistic or objective sculpture of artists like Donald Judd, Edward Strickland’s Minimalism: Origins (1993) coalesces the two via a shared focus on site‐specificity and architectural context. He writes: «In Alvier Lucier’s Minimal process‐piece ‘I am sitting in a room’, the featured performer is not the ‘I’ but the ‘room.’ After speaking/stammering his brief statement, Lucier himself performs no more. He remains only in the form of his taped voice, replayed and re‐recorded until it loses its distinctive individuality, swallowed up by the room, surviving in a ghostly existence within its resonant frequencies.»
This talk outlines the theoretical and art historical framework behind «Marfa Sounding»: a series of site‐specific music performances, sound installations, and conversations that engage these parallels between process‐based music and serial structures in art. Focused on the manipulation and disruption of time in relation to architectural space and environment‐‐from extended duration to the unpredictable frequencies of wind‐‐the series situates this embodied exploration in the small Texas town of Marfa. Following this introduction, Jennifer Burris Staton will focus on the the program’s final performance: a new site‐specific work written by Lucier for Curtis (and wind) and performed at an open‐air concrete amphitheater located in preserved ranch land outside of town.
This talk was given in Marfa at 101 East Dallas Street on May 24th 2016 (10am-noon)
From Deep Sea To Deeper Space
Through High Latitudes Of Arctic
Deep ocean, hot and polar deserts, deep space and other planets challenge people every minute they spend there but these environments also lead people to finding unordinary solutions, fascinating views on reality and a better understanding of themselves. This presentation discusses issues associated with extreme conditions and their influences on design and architecture. Vitruvius declared that architecture (and design) consists of three key elements: utilitas, firmitas, and venustas. That means they have to have function, be well built, and need delight. This presentation will argue the importance of Delight in architecture and planning, especially in extreme environments on Earth and in space.
This talk was given at the University of Houston on May 17th 2016 (2-4pm)